Collision Course For Crash – The Exhibition

London, The Arts

The Gagosian Gallery in King’s Cross, London is currently presenting “Crash,” a major group exhibition that takes its title from the novel by JG Ballard.

Ballard’s books remain among the most visionary, provocative literature of the twentieth century, with his ominous predictions regarding the fate of Western culture and his insights into the dark psychopathology of the human race. The exhibition is a response to the enormous impact and enduring cultural significance of his work, following his death in spring 2009.

‘Crash’ tells the story of a group of erotically obsessed drivers who cruise West London looking for car accidents or deliberately staging them in an attempt to achieve a fusion of man and machine. It is his most subversive work because of the seductive way in which he married obsessive images of sex and violence. For me, David Cronenberg’s film took a more icily cerebral approach that denied any viewer connection with the characters, rendering them into freaks, but when you read the book you are more easily converted to their ideas.

Interestingly, nearly all of the major artists in the exhibition have chosen to avoid direct references from the book, and there are hardly any cars featured. I would have thought that someone would have produced a photo-realist montage of flesh and chrome (an image obsessively described and redescribed in the novel) – but as a whole, the exhibition, which features a crashed jet undercarriage and a cement-filled car shell, gives a strong flavour of the book. You can hear the podcast here, although when the Guardian arts correspondent Adrian Searle walks in off ‘the bleak streets of King’s Cross’ and then fails to see the significance of the first piece’s title, you do wonder if he’s the right critic for the job. (BTW, the Guardian’s online headlines today feature an all-time terrible pun in reference to Obama’s visit with the Dalai Lama upsetting the Chinese – ‘Visit Causes Obama-Lama Ding-Dong.’)

2 comments on “Collision Course For Crash – The Exhibition”

  1. Adam Holdsworth says:

    I read “Crash” for the first time three months ago, and while I was predictably disturbed by the auto-eroticism, as I’m a product of 70s West London suburbia I kept being diverted trying to work out the locations Ballard refers to. “The Western Avenue” for example certainly doeesn’t seem to be located where it ought to be – its more like the Great South West Road. Is the narrator’s flat in Heston? I really couldn’t work this out.

    Great picture and if I get the chance I’ll wander over to the gallery.

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